What can we learn from this?

One of my first paintball experiences was in college, when a few buddies and I decided to see what the game was all about.  We had fun, but it was clear we were not as “into it” as some of the other players.

Because there were only three or four of us, we were grouped with other players to make a full game – probably 6 or 7 per team.  At the end of the first game (in which we really didn’t know what we were doing but had fun anyway), one of the other guys on our team gathers us around for a strategy session.Paintball_Player“What can we learn from this?”, he asked the group.

If he wasn’t as serious as a heat attack, I probably wouldn’t remember it so vividly, but this guy was not about to lose again.  I remember thinking, um… “shoot the other people before they shoot you?”  That was my takeaway. I thought that answer was too simplistic, so I kept my mouth shut and let the real strategists work their magic.

Until recently, I sort of got a chuckle when I recalled this incident. I couldn’t believe (at the time) that this guy was SO into this friendly game of paintball. Of course now, as a training professional, I ask myself that same question all the time.

I go to a restaurant and get lousy service… “what can we learn from this?”

I rent a car and get great service… “what can we learn from this?”

I recall my first paintball experience about a guy asking “what can we learn from this?”… “what can we learn from this?”

The vast majority of these experiences become blog posts or stories I tell in my training classes.  Why?  Because there IS a lesson there, if you are willing to look for it.

And that was the light bulb moment that happened for me when I was on a plane recently, inexplicably recalling the paintball drill sergeant.  He was so into it that he wanted to up his game, improve his standing, and wipe out the competition.

I think it’s when we are “into” things that we have a genuine desire to improve and to learn more.  We’ve probably reached a certain maturity in that skill and now can see that there are ways to get better and we are willing to figure out how to get there.

As a paintball novice, I didn’t know or care about how to get better.  I was going to shoot a few people with paint and call it a day. Game over.

But this leadership thing… this customer service thing… this employee engagement thing… I am whole-heartedly INTO those things.  So I ask the questions.

Do you find yourself asking those questions?  If so, what about?  Is it about your role as a leader or the engagement of your team?  Is it about building model railroads, mountain biking or exotic food?  When we examine the topics that command our curiosity, we start to uncover our passions.

If you are trying to find your passion, or tap into the passions of your team, that’s the question you need to ask.  “What am I constantly (and naturally – with no prodding from anyone else) trying to get better at?”  “What do my employees (individually) care so much about that they are willing to take the time, effort and energy to learn more about it and improve their performance?”

I mentioned maturity earlier in relation to a skill, but I also think there is a maturity in knowing that you don’t know everything. When you know what you are passionate about, you know there is so much more to learn… then it seems that everything becomes a learning opportunity.

So I will ask you, what did you learn from this?

Thanks for reading!


It’s more than a book – it’s a training system! 

The Myth of Employee Burnout has been used by several companies as a text book for training their new supervisors. One company said it lead to double-digit growth in productivity and employee satisfaction.  Wouldn’t you like to see how it could do that for you, too?

Book cover with amazon

What Employees Want From Their Leaders

I’ve been reading a series of legal thrillers recently and the main character talks a lot about the law of unintended outcomes.  This blog post is a direct result of that phenomenon.

I am currently working on a leadership session and wanted to gather some opinions about what employees look for in their leader.  I posed the question to former IAAPA Show Ambassadors who represent a great demographic cross-section of the young staff members many of us work with.  When I saw their answers, I thought this information was bigger than the one session I was working on, and needed to be shared with as many people as possible.  Thus, an unintended outcome of asking my original question.

So, here are the answers they gave. I am including them as they wrote them, with no editing.  Watch for common themes and feel free to self evaluate regarding where you fall on the “what-my-employees-want” scale (each persons response is separated by a space):

  • Feedback: Positive or Needs Improvement. It’s always good to know how you doing, and to get assistance with development.
  • Empathy: Sometimes leaders need to understand what it’s like on the front line, especially if they haven’t done it in awhile.
  • Communication: It’s the worst when a leader does not communicate with the front line important information about the daily operations.
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Solicit input from staff when developing new policies or procedures
  • Share the big picture and long-term goals
  • Doesn’t micromanage.
  • Firm yet understanding.
  • Knowledgeable and willing to teach you and help you grow.
  • Work hard/play hard attitude.
  • Approachability
  • Humility
  • Passionate
  • Dedicated
  • Honest
  • Passionate
  • Always willing to give you constructive criticism. Sometimes I think leaders hold back on their responsibility to communicate as both professional and personal relationships build. Whenever I find myself hesitating to give feedback to a team member I always think about how much I appreciate when people give me both positive and constructive feedback.
  • Also, someone who invests time in understanding the thought process that goes into how you do your job and how you make decisions. Especially in cross-functional teams where your leader might come from a different background then you.
  • Someone who shows that they are committed to their team members success, and is willing to work with their team to help them achieve their goals.
  • Someone who leads by example (someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but can walk the walk.)
  • Someone who can effectively communicate the teams goals, small and big picture.
  • Someone you can relate to and have fun with!
  • Dreamer –I look to someone with vision, a purpose for their labor, who is constantly seeking methods for either sustainment or improvement and innovation. To me, a great leader not only has a vision for their individual responsibilities but also how his or her efforts contribute to a greater purpose. Ultimately, the person is a “big picture thinker”
  • Inspirational –Those that lead well are those who instill motivation in others. Altruism paired with purpose and passion produce someone with fervor enough to inspire others. I find that work becomes more meaningful when I can attribute passion to it -whether it be intrinsic or inspired by another. Leaders with this quality have an excellent way of helping an organization grow because they constantly build their teams’ esteem and motivation with the passion they carry themselves.
  • Admirability –A true leader, in my eyes, is an authentic leader, a person respected and highly esteemed by others because of his or her ability to honest, caring, and dependable. Respect is built with time by the outcome of experiences. Leaders who demonstrate a high level of truthfulness, conviction in their teams and a sincere concern for others’ well-being, as well as a reputation for keeping promises is endeared by many but, chiefly, is respected by all.

What are the common themes did you notice?  How did you do on your self evaluation?  Are we missing anything that YOU look for in a leader?

I want to thank Bobby Monnerat, Ivey West, Todd Swetnam, Greg Matthew, Dave Mugnaini, Sarai Henning, Brandon Bruce, Alex Reszitnyk, and Krystal Lambert for not only chiming in to answer my question, but also for unintendedly contributing to this blog post and the betterment of leaders everywhere!  You rock!

Thanks for reading!


Now that you know what your employees want, are you and your leadership teams equipped to provide it?  I’m here to help your leaders lead!